A cascade of victories against plastic pollution in the Pacific Northwest
Oregon and Washington State have reaffirmed their status as national leaders in moving beyond plastic with the adoption of new laws:
- Oregon will phase out polystyrene foam foodware, packing peanuts and coolers and also ban toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in food packaging;
- Oregon will make providing reusable container options easier for restaurants statewide; and
- Washington State will require bottle filling stations in new buildings with water fountains and that lodging establishments use bulk dispensers for toiletries like shampoo, soap, and conditioner, phasing out unnecessary plastic waste from single-use personal care items.
Environment Oregon, OSPIRG, Environment Washington, and WashPIRG helped achieve these victories, the latest in a wave of state-level progress built up by the state organizations of The Public Interest Network’s flagship groups, PIRG and Environment America, and our allies:
- Since 2014, when CALPIRG and Environment California led a successful effort to win a groundbreaking statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, 10 states have passed statewide plastic bag bans;
- Since 2016, 12 states have banned foam foodware, restricted the availability of single-use plastic straws, or both; and
- Since 2021, four states have implemented innovative “producer responsibility” programs, which discourage the manufacture of single-use plastic in the first place by requiring plastics manufacturers to cover the cost of waste cleanup.
With Oregon’s new foam foodware ban set to go into effect in 2025, Oregon will join Maine as the only other state to enact all four of the Network’s priority plastic pollution reduction policies statewide, targeting bags, foodware, straws and establishing producer responsibility. And now, one-third of Americans live in a state that has banned some type of single-use plastic.
This is the sort of progress that once seemed impossible to achieve. After all, the apparent convenience of throwaway plastic has become so enmeshed in our lives that few of us can recall a time when careful reuse of all kinds of everyday items was the norm for Americans. How could we even imagine doing without single-use plastic today?
For many of us, what brought home the need for change was seeing viral footage of state-sized gyres of trash in our oceans—or dead dolphins, whales, sea turtles or birds washed ashore with plastic debris inside them. For others, recent news stories of the presence of microplastics in our environment and our bodies sparked a collective desire to upend our throwaway lifestyles.
In the media and online, at community events and Americans’ doors all across the country, and in state houses, corporate boardrooms and Washington, D.C., PIRG and Environment America work to channel this concern and rally more of the public and our leaders to the cause of ending single-use plastic with our slogan: Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute our environment for hundreds of years.
There’s still much more to do on this issue. But thanks in part to the progress we’re winning, campaign by campaign, state by state, we’re making measurable reductions in plastic pollution.
Douglas H. Phelps
President and Executive Director, The Public Interest Network
Doug is President and Executive Director of The Public Interest Network. As director of MASSPIRG starting in 1979, he conceived and helped organize the Fund for the Public Interest, U.S. PIRG, National Environmental Law Center, Green Century Capital Management, Green Corps and Environment America, among other groups. Doug ran the public interest careers program at the Harvard Law School from 1976-1986. He is a graduate of Colorado State University and the Harvard Law School.
State Director, Environment Oregon
As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.